Saturday, October 25, 2008

Five Things

There's been some interesting discussion on a couple of writers loops in which I lurk.

What are the top five things you'd like to see less of in novels? Particularly suspense novels?

Editing is a given. As a writer, it drives me nuts to see gaffes that should've been caught.

But I knew I had other things. So I thought and I thought.

Here are my top five issues. Understanding the five things I'd like to see LESS of automatically helps me see the things I'd like to see MORE of in novels.

1. Plot Development - The absurd discovery/solution that appears out of nowhere. In a mystery, this is akin to getting the proverbial phone call from someone who provides all the evidence necessary to identify the killer. That's a bunch of hooey.

2. Character Development - or lack thereof. Just because I'm writing a suspense novel doesn't mean my characters can be flat.

3. Character Development - The equally absurd act of tagging a character with traits or goals or skills that might work for the absurd plot (see #1) but which have no basis in reality. Er . . . fictional reality. You know what I mean.

4. Scene Design - Repetitious scenes that don't add anything more to either the characters or the plot. The first time, maybe yeah. But the third or fifth? Not so much. The story stalls each time there's a similar scene, no matter how much action it contains. A nice summation is all that's necessary. How many barroom brawls does a protag have to get into before the reader gets it? How many love scenes (I admit, they can be nice) are necessary before the reader also gets that?

5. Tertiary Characters - Because Malcolm is mentioned on page 17 doesn't mean I'm going to remember who he is on page 135. I hate going back and trying to find earlier mention of someone who I thought wasn't important, but golly . . . he must be. (OT - did you know you an do this easily with Kindle?)

CR: Just started Dark Summer by Iris Johansen.

Working On: My next scene. Still working my way through GMC, and have pulled Stephen King's On Writing from my shelves to peruse.

It's all better with friends.


  1. I'm an editor, so I'm encouraged to see writers complain about a lack of editing. One always tends to assume things are getting worse, but is that the case? Is book editing worse than it used to be? If so, why?

    I'd also be curious about examples of the five flaws you cite.

    Detectives Beyond Borders
    "Because Murder Is More Fun Away From Home"

  2. Peter, give me a day or two.

    I know this sounds inane, but we're heading out to play canasta with some friends.

    Did I mention I'm old? {grin}

    Plus, I want to check out your blog! {bigger grin}

  3. "we're heading out to play canasta with some friends ... Plus, I want to check out your blog! "

    I approve of both activities. Enjoy your game. I've been curious about canasta since my, er, grandmother used to play it.
    Detectives Beyond Borders
    "Because Murder Is More Fun Away From Home"

  4. Okay, Peter.

    I have to fess up. When I dislike a book, it pretty much goes out of my head. Especially if it's rather petty on my part. And a lot of them are petty.

    Along the lines of absurd plot development, however, lies a book solidly imprinted in my feeble memory banks (grandmother???).

    Years ago, I was thoroughly enjoying a book called THE LAST DAY by Glenn Kleier. The plot and premise held my attention. As I recall, the last scene (or very near the last scene)involved a helicopter out of nowhere and people falling from the helicopter. It in NO WAY fit with the rest of the story as I read it. My personal belief is that either someone other than Kleier wrote it, or the publisher forced him to write it their way. It was a supreme disappointment, and I've never seen, let alone read, another book by Glenn Kleier.

    I recently finished a pretty good book by J.D. Robb. SALVATION THROUGH DEATH. I'm not a prude. I enjoyed the first scene in the book where the protag and her husband made love. But after that? I can get it with just a few words. I felt that Robb/Roberts must have been under some pressure to add a bit more sex. It did not add to my understanding of the characters, their growth, or the plot.

    And the same book kept me thumbing for tertiary characters. I think part of the problem was that this is a huge series. But each book in a series should stand alone. I shouldn't need to go back a gazillion books to get the character drift.

    When I wrote the review for this book ( I didn't go into detail, and I allowed a credit for characters in a series.

    Both THE LAST DAY and SALVATION IN DEATH are books worth reading. Just stack some of your expectations at the door.

    I read another "peeve" today that I also have to agree with . . . the forced chapter hook. Don't treat me like a child. I think the commenter said something like "I hate it when the author ends a chapter with 'Little did I know that so-and-so was about to buy it.' or other things to that effect."

    Get real, and give readers some credit. Either you are writing a compelling story that will entice them to turn the page, or you're not. A transparent hook is only gonna hurt your chances of a reader giving you another shot.

    And I'm either getting het up about this, or having a hot flash.

    I guess it's time to make dinner.

    BTW . . . your blog is amazing. Creates a forum for thoughtful consideration. And it appears you post every day. . . . Either you don't have a life, or you simply don't play canasta. LOL.

    Blessings to you.